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The National Union of Metalworkers of SA launched its United Front against neo-liberalism across the country on Wednesday as it kicked off what could be months of rolling mass action for working-class struggles.
Wednesday’s march in Joburg against the government’s implementation of the youth wage subsidy drew a crowd of about 5 000, with reported crowds of 3 000 in Durban. There were similar marches in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
The marches and the one-day strike mark a significant move in what may be Numsa’s inevitable exit from trade union federation Cosatu and the ANC-led tripartite alliance.
It appears to be just a matter of time before the union is either expelled or jumps ship from Cosatu, which it has repeatedly said is being turned into a “labour desk” of the ruling ANC.
After the militant union’s special national congress in December, delegates moved for it to leave the alliance and withdraw political and financial support for the ANC during this year’s elections. The union’s relationship with the SACP has also broken down.
Wednesday’s marches signalled the beginning of new political alliances, as Numsa was joined by newly formed left-wing parties and some representatives of broader civil society organisations.
Present at marches across the country were Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters and the Workers and Socialist Party (Wasp), which emerged in the wake of the 2012 Marikana massacre.
Last week the party announced Moses Mayekiso as its presidential candidate for the May 7 elections.
“Mayekiso is a popular Numsa veteran who served as the union’s founding general secretary and was among the first leaders of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco),” it said.
Numsa’s general secretary, Irvin Jim, on Wednesday told workers assembled outside the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) offices in Rosebank, Joburg, that the ANC’s solutions to unemployment were “rubbish”.
“Today we are launching a united front. As metalworkers, we will unite issues of service delivery protests and municipal issues with our shop floor issues.”
The union was angry because the Treasury had bypassed Nedlac in piloting the government’s Employment Tax Incentive Act, the state’s youth wage subsidy law, which is opposed by the unions.
Numsa has characterised the act as an “attack on both young and old workers”, and said yesterday the Treasury would use it to divide workers.
The law was an example of workers subsidising the bosses, several leaders said.
The SACP also came in for a thrashing. Jim dismissed calls from SACP leaders that he be subjected to a lifestyle audit as ”stupid, narrow propaganda”.